Forensic psychiatry in Britain.
J. C. Beck,
Bull. Amer. Acad. Psychiatry & the Law
23(2): 249-60, 1995.
This report provides an overview of the criminal forensic mental health system in Great Britain, that
is England and Wales. The report is based on the author's participant observation as a visiting
consultant psychiatrist at a regional forensic facility in Manchester, England during early 1994.
British law casts a net over a wider population of forensic patients than does U.S. law. There is a
forensic care system in the British National Health Service that is parallel to and independent of the
general psychiatric care system. The forensic system provides continuity of care from prison through
maximum security hospitals to regional medium secure facilities, and finally, into the community.
Community care is provided by psychiatrists and social workers and, if necessary, by psychiatric
nurses. This system appears to provide effective treatment for persons with major mental disorders
and histories of violence. Differences between Britain and the United States in philosophy of
government, in law, and in forensic training and practice are discussed. The fundamental difference
is a greater British belief in the capacity of government to act in the best interests of the individual.
Current problems in the British health care system and plans to privatize some services are also